Friday, April 6, 2012

Nutrition facts label: The Important tool for choosing healthy food.


 Grocery shopping is a routine and important to do activity of the week.  When it comes to grocery shopping every housewife aims to shop productively to feed her family a nutritious meal. There comes a big question what to buy?  Is this a healthy option or not? In present busy world people are approaching for quick fix. Ready to eat foods, pre packed meals are quite common. Beware of all those attractive packing. The only way we can assess a food item is Nutritional facts label that is printed on every food item behind the pack. This Nutritional fact label will give us a clear picture of what we actually consume. So when you purchase a food item make sure you check for Nutritional fact Label before letting it in to your cart.

Why Nutritional Facts label is important:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends low energy dense food to reduce the risk of overweight and obesity. Energy density of a food depends on number of calories present in food per serving. A recent study in Chicago also concluded that high energy dense food causes weight gain.  Nutritional Fact label is the only tool on food items that indicates energy density of the food.  Along with energy density this label also indicates some important nutritional facts like number of calories from fat, total fat, total carbohydrates, Dietary fiber, Sugar, Sodium, Protein, Vit- A, Vit- C, iron, calcium. Reading nutrition labels have following advantages:

  •          Helps to choose low energy dense foods.
  •          Helps to identify high fat foods.
  •          Helps in identifying high sodium foods.
  •          Helps in identifying high sugary foods.
  •          Helps to make smart choices on healthy fats by knowing the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  •          Helps to make smart choice of proteins and fiber.
So, it is important to read nutrition label before purchasing a food item. No mom wants to feed a sugary, fatty, and low fiber food to her family. So educate yourself to be smart in choosing healthy foods.

How to read Nutritional fact label:
This is not a complicated task. It just needs some attention and patience to look and compare your food choices.
Nutrition Facts Label Images for Download Label 3

Serving Size:

In Nutrition Facts label first check for serving size. Make sure you serve exact serving size mentioned on the label. If you have 2 servings at a time then just double your nutrients count and also calorie count.

Amount of calories:

Amount of calories gives you knowledge on amount of calories you consume per serving. Always aim for fewer calories from fat. When you are purchasing nuts or butter, then aim to get more unsaturated fats than saturated fats.

Limit these nutrients:

Limit consumption of total fats, Saturated fats, Trans- fat, Cholesterol, Sodium. Aim for items that contain less amount of above nutrients. When comparing products choose one that is having low amounts of fats, cholesterol and sodium. Never buy products that have trans-fat.  This is major culprit for heart strokes, obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Get enough of Fiber, Vitamin A, C, Calcium, and Iron:

A fiber rich food helps to maintains blood glucose levels and it also helps you to feel full for long time.

Vitamin A is responsible for good vision and also helps as immune booster. Good amounts of Vitamin A are advisable. Dietary recommendations of Vit A for adults are 600 mcg/day retinol and 4800mcg/day Beta carotene. So aim to get good amounts of Vitamin A.

Vitamin C is also one of the good immune boosters. As it is a water soluble vitamin regular intake of vitamin C containing food is important. A dietary recommendation for Vit C is 40mg/d.

Calcium is important compound of teeth and bones. It  is also important in cellular level, as some energy driven cellular process are carried out with help of calcium channels. It is very important for kids and women for strong bones. A dietary recommendation for Calcium is 1000mg/d for men and 1500mg/d for pregnant, lactating and for women above 50.

Iron is major component of blood so aim for foods that are good sources of iron. Dietary recommendations for iron are 17mg/d for men and 21mg/d for women.

Percentage Daily Value (%DV):

This numbers give you the contribution of nutrient in the serving to your total daily diet. This value also helps to know if food is high or low in particular nutrient. 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high. But this percentage is for 2000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie requirement you may need more or less. But yet it is a helpful gauge.

Foot Note with % Daily Values:

This foot note will help you know the advisable levels of nutrients intake depending on your calorie intake.

Take home message:

  •         Always read nutrition labels before you purchase a food item.
  •          Use nutrition label to compare similar foods and choose healthy option.
  •        Aim for low fat, low sodium and low sugary foods.
  •         Tran-fat should always be “0”.
  •         Choose foods with good amounts of fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron.
  •         Always choose healthy fats like polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fats and ALA.

Always know what you eat, this helps in preventing long list of chronic diseases.

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